Spring is here and it is great to start spending more time outside. There are many reasons why being outside is good for us, be it relaxation, exercise, time to recharge or time to unwind. We all know that being outside in nature is healthy, whether that involves taking a walk, flying a kite or working in the garden (my choice for the way to spend ‘quality time’). What ever the reason why we we enjoy being outside, the sunshine offers us a way to absorb Vitamin D naturally.
In fact, Dr. Andrew Weil’s web site (www.drweil.com) describes Vitamin D as the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies synthesize this vitamin by exposure to sunlight. Dr. Weil lists five
reasons how this important hormone is used throughout the body:
- Helps to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
- Assists in the absorption of calcium and promotes bone mineralization, which may prevent or slow the progression of osteoporosis.
- Strengthens the immune system and protects against a number of serious diseases, including rickets and osteomalacia.
- May provide protection from hypertension, psoriasis and several autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis).
- Plays a role in defending against cancer (studies link a deficiency of vitamin D to as many as 18 different cancers).
It is recommended to get 20 to 30 minutes of exposure to the sun’s light each day (depending upon your skin pigmentation). Take care to wear the proper clothing to avoid over exposure. Additional information on Vitamin D and to see if you are getting your share, check out Dr. Weil’s web site at:
So, the next time someone asks you why you are spending so much time in your garden, remind them that you are getting your daily dose of Vitamin D. Enjoy!Read more
HORTICULTURAL THERAPY WEEK
National Horticultural Therapy Week is being held this week, from March 15 to 21 and focuses on the practice and profession of horticulture as therapy. The American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA), it”s members and everyone who want to host an horticultural therapy event or site visit can participate. Consider getting involved in your community – host an event that can promote horticultural therapy and therapeutic gardens on a local level as well as bring attention to horticultural therapy across the nation.
AHTA is a champion of barrier-free, therapeutic gardens that enable everyone to work, learn, and relax in the garden. Horticultural therapists are skilled at creating garden spaces that accommodate people with a wide range of abilities. People with physical or mental disabilities benefit from gardening experiences as part of HT programs, and they learn skills, adaptations, and gardening methods that allow for continued participation at home.
Some techniques include:
- Constructing wide, gently graded wheelchair accessible entrances and paths.
- Utilizing raised beds and containers
- Adapting tools to turn a disability into an ability
- Creating sensory-stimulation environments with plants selected for fragrance texture and color
- Utilizing accessible greenhouses that bring the garden indoors for year-round enjoyment
To learn more about the Horticultural Therapy Week and the profession of Horticultural Therapy, visit:
COMMUNITY GARDENS AND THE USDA
The interest in community gardens is growing. This has been shown by surveys conducted by the Garden Writers Association. It appears that there approximately 3 million people would like to participate in a community garden in 2009. To help meet this demand, the U. S. Department of Forestry has announced that it will create community gardens at all of it’s facilities world wide.
According to the report, “the USDA community garden project will include a wide variety of garden activities including Embassy window boxes, tree planting, and field office plots. The gardens will be designed to promote “going green” concepts, including landscaping and building design to retain water and reduce runoff; roof gardens for energy efficiency; utilizing native plantings and using sound conservation practices.”
Additional information on this program, and to find out if there is an opportunity to participate, go to the USDA’s web page for more information on their community garden program:
U.S.DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE'S 'PEOPLE'S GARDEN'
Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, has taken an important first step in helping to recognize the importance of people creating their own vegetable gardens. The Secretary helped to tear up a driveway at the Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC to plant a garden. I assume that this is a part of the 19% increase in gardens being created in 2009, as reported by the Garden Writers Association.
A special ceremony that was held on Feb. 12, 2009 for the beginning of the People’s Garden Project on the Bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth at the Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC. The plans for the garden were unveiled and the press was there to record the event. Pictures of the event can be found on the USDA’s web site:
According to the Collective Roots web page, “the new garden will add 612 square feet of planted space to an existing garden traditionally planted with ornamentals. The garden will showcase conservation practices that all Americans can implement in their own backyards and green spaces. The garden plot is adjacent to the site of the USDA Farmer’s Market. Additional information can be found on the Collective Roots web site:
I will be sure to visit when I am in Washington and I will post pictures on this blog. The next step is to create a Community garden on the grounds of the White House.Read more
A study was conducted to see if gardening could help people in the transition from their home to a senior living community. The goal was to find ways to enhance the quality of life for people with an activity in which most people are familiar. Claudia Collins, Area Extension Specialist in Aging Issues and Angela O’Callaghan, Area Extension Specialist in Social Horticulture conducted the research at an assisted living residence in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The study looked at how a variety of garden plots and raised planters would increase interest and participation. The raised planters were created in different heights to offer greater accessibility for a wider range of abilities. In addition, the plants that were selected for use were chosen because of their seasonal variation. The location of the gardens was equally as important. They were visible from the dining are as well as many of the residential units. These and other features of a well planned garden, such as benches and shade, worked to insure interest and participation.
The study demonstrates how horticulture and gardening benefits older adults who are living in senior communities. The life-transitions that older adults face can be positively affected by incorporating nature based activities into their residential settings. Offering people the opportunity to manage and care for living things helps their self esteem and feeling of independence.
The article appears in the Journal of Extension (Dec. 2007, Vol. 45, No. 6) and can be found at